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Am J Psychiatry. 1998 Aug;155(8):1023-8.

In vivo association between alcohol intoxication, aggression, and serotonin transporter availability in nonhuman primates.

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Clinical Brain Disorders Branch, NIMH Neuroscience Center at St. Elizabeths Hospital, Washington, DC, USA.



Studies on brain serotonin metabolism in human and nonhuman primates have indicated that dysfunction of serotonin transmission may play a role in the biological vulnerability to dependence on alcohol. Among young men, low sensitivity to alcohol intoxication predicts subsequent alcohol abuse and dependence.


The authors used single photon emission computed tomography and the radioligand [(I)123]beta-CIT ([(I)123]methyl 3beta-(4-iodophenyl) tropane-2-carboxylate) to measure the availability of serotonin transporters in 11 male rhesus monkeys, and the monkeys were genotyped for a functional polymorphism of the serotonin transporter gene. The 11 monkeys had experienced parental separation after birth; their behavior and 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA) concentrations in CSF had been assessed regularly.


In the 5-year-old monkeys, there was a significant negative correlation between beta-CIT binding to serotonin transporters in the brainstem and 5-HIAA concentrations in CSF. Animals with greater beta-CIT binding and low CSF 5-HIAA concentrations displayed greater aggressiveness and were less sensitive to alcohol-induced intoxication. The genetic constitution of the serotonin transporter promoter gene did not significantly contribute to the availability of brainstem serotonin transporters as measured by beta-CIT binding.


In adult nonhuman primates who underwent early developmental stress, variables indicating a low serotonin turnover rate were associated with behavior patterns similar to those predisposing to early-onset alcoholism among humans.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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